With Darrell Bevell now the offensive coordinator, the Detroit Lions are expected to become a run-first offense. But will they really take that dive?
Under the four-year tenure of former head coach Jim Caldwell, the Detroit Lions seemed to have little interest in running the football. With quarterback Matthew Stafford entering his prime under center, the Lions’ leaned on the veteran passer’s arm and found success.
During Caldwell’s tenure, the Lions would post a combined 36-28 record (56.25 winning percentage), advancing to the playoffs twice in four years. And Detroit’s run offenses during that span never ranked higher than 28th in the NFL. In fact, the Lions possessed the worst rushing attack in the entire league in both 2015 and 2017.
Despite his better than average four-year run, Caldwell was unceremoniously fired following the conclusion of the 2017 regular season. In his place, Detroit hired former New England Patriots defensive coordinator and three-time Super Bowl winner Matt Patricia.
Along with Patricia’s hiring, the Lions’ front office, headed by general manager Bob Quinn, made huge investments in their running game. First, signing free-agent running back LeGarrette Blount who, himself, was coming off back-to-back Super Bowl titles.
Then, the Lions spent their first two selections in the 2018 NFL Draft on Arkansas center Frank Ragnow and Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson in the first and second rounds respectively. The end result of that investment last year was the 23rd ranked running offense in the NFL and a disappointing 6-10 record for Patricia as a first-time head coach.
Flash forward to this year and the Lions have seemingly doubled-down on improving their running game. Detroit hired a new offensive coordinator in Darrell Bevell, who helped establish dominant rushing attacks with the Minnesota Vikings from 2006-2010 and the Seattle Seahawks from 2011-2017, winning a Super Bowl with the latter four years ago.
With Bevell at the helm of the offense, it’s believed Detroit will become a more run-centric team, if not a run-first team, despite the presence of Stafford under center. But can this version of the Lions actually succeed on the ground where others haven’t? Check out the team’s rushing offense rankings since Stafford was drafted back in 2009.
Detroit Lions: Rushing Offense Rankings (Total Yards) via ESPN.com
2018: 23rd – 6-10 record
2017: 32nd – 9-7 record
2016: 30th – 9-7 record
2015: 32nd – 7-9 record
2014: 28th – 11-5 record
2013: 17th – 7-9 record
2012: 23rd – 4-12 record
2011: 29th – 10-6 record
2010: 23rd – 6-10 record
2009: 24th – 2-14 record
The Lions haven’t fielded anything greater than the 17th best rushing offense in the league in the past ten years. We honestly have no idea what a dominant rushing attack in the Motor City even looks like since the days of Barry Sanders. And that didn’t often translate to wins, especially in the postseason.
It’s hard to imagine the Detroit Lions fielding a run-first offense this upcoming season. Although that could be exactly what this struggling franchise needs to get their first playoff win since January 5, 1992. But it’s one of those things we’ll have to see in order to believe. And despite all the pre-regular season hype about the running game in Detroit, until it results in wins on the field, I’m not sure I’m buying in. Are you?